In the late ’90s, while working my way through college at cafes and juice bars, I had a boss who I considered a friend. He was kind, driven and taught me a lot about hard work.
I’ll never forget the day he confided in me that he was HIV positive. This news jolted me because I was well aware of the disease and how it devastated so many people since the 80s. Had he not told me he was HIV positive, I would have been completely oblivious to this fact, as he showed no signs of having HIV – something I later learned was a stigma that is often attached to those who identify as being HIV positive.
A while later, at another job, I remember seeing street signs posted nearby about the annual AIDS Walk, an event that takes place in many large cities across the U.S. and raises awareness and funding to battle HIV/AIDS. Until then, I’d never thought about helping out – but this time was different. I decided to hand-paint a sign asking for donations and put it up in the juice bar where I worked. In only two days, I’d raised $450 just by painting a sign and committing to going for a walk.
That year I set out on the AIDS Walk by myself, but I met a lot of amazing people. They were all there for their own reasons, but also to make a difference – just like me. This was the moment I realized the impact one person can make. Together we raised thousands of dollars for the effort. I’m no hero, but I knew then that I can help save lives – just by doing something as simple as walking.
In 2010, I joined Walmart as a freelance designer. I later transitioned to a full-time associate, and eventually became the creative director of design for Walmart.com. I learned about the company’s core values, including the importance of giving back personally, professionally and institutionally. At Walmart, I knew I could make an even bigger impact with my community service efforts.
This will be my eighth year to give back by riding in AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC), an annual seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The mission is simple – by committing to ride a bicycle and raise money through donations, we help provide funding and services for those living with HIV/AIDS. In 2014, I helped start and lead Team Walmart which had 19 riders in the event and raised $127,000. Each year, we’ve continued to grow, and this year, we have over 60 riders from across the country, including six from Jet.com and one from Bentonville.
In four years, our team has raised over $800,000 for ALC. This year, Team Walmart/Jet.com has a goal of raising $500,000 – a lofty goal, but it’s a critical mission of giving back and doing what’s right in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This mission isn’t about me or any one person who’s participating in ALC – we all ride or volunteer in ALC for our own personal reasons, but we collectively stand together in giving back for a cause that’s bigger than us all.
The impact of one continues – except now it’s on my bike, and as one united team.
Danny Baker, above, an 8-time rider with AIDS/LifeCycle and a 4-year member of Team Walmart/Jet.com’s ALC team, was recently recognized by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation with the Ovation Award for personally raising over $50,000 with ALC.